The sheriff’s office.
It is nine o’clock, on the morning of the 24th March, 1852. Manuel was marched into the sheriff’s office, situated in the court-house, on the corner of Broad and Meeting streets. A large table stood in the centre of the room, covered with sundry old papers and an inkstand. At one side was an old sofa, bearing strong evidence of its being worn out at the expense of the State. A few pine-wood and painted book-stands, several tip-staffs, old broken-backed chairs, and last, but not least, a wood-sawyer’s buck-saw, stood here and there in beautiful disorder around the room; while, as if to display the immense importance of the office, a “cocked” hat with the judicial sword hung conspicuously above the old sofa. A door opened upon the left hand, leading into the clerk’s office, where the books and archives of the office were kept. Mr. Kanapeaux, the incumbent, exhibited a great deal of good feeling, which it would have lost the sheriff none of his reputation to pattern after, and kept his office in very respectable order.
“Come in ’ere, Manwell, or whatever yer name is,” said Dunn, as he led the way into the presence of Mr. Grimshaw, the lean, haggard-looking man we have before described. His dark, craven features, as he sat peering through his glasses at the morning news, gave him the appearance of a man of whom little was, to be expected by those who had the misfortune to fall into his hands.
“Ah! Dunn, you are the best officer in the city; ’pon my soul, these fellows can’t escape you! Where did you pick up that nigger?” said he, with a look of satisfaction.
“A fat fee case, Mr. Grimshaw, ‘contrary to law;’ he’s a Portugee nigger. Never had so much trouble with a nigger in my life; I didn’t know but the fellow was going to preach a sermon. The Captain-he belongs to a wrecked Englishman-wanted to come the gammon game with him, and pass him for a white man; but sure he couldn’t come that game over meself and Duse, anyhow,” said Dunn.
Without saying a word, Manuel stood up before his accusers, upon this strange charge of “contrary to law.”
As he looked upon his accusers, he said, “What have I done to suffer a murderer’s fate? Am I to be sold as a slave, because of the visitation of God? I have done no murder! No!—nor have I stolen in your land! and why did these men decoy me into”—
“Silence! silence! You are in the sheriff’s office,” said Dunn, pointing his finger at his nose. “You can’t come your John Bull nigger in South Carolina.”
This brought the sheriff’s clerk to the door that led into the passage. “Dunn, I have warned you about these things several times; the public are getting wind of them; they’ll bring this office into disrepute yet. You ought to know what effect the association of officials with these ‘corner-shop keepers’ is already having in the community,” said he.